Cape Town — Lesotho's opposition parties are trying to negotiate the formation of a coalition government after the ruling Democratic Congress failed to win a clear majority of seats in parliamentary elections.
Five opposition parties holding 65 seats in the 120-seat Parliament announced talks on a coalition at a news conference in the capital, Maseru, on Tuesday afternoon.
The leading party in the bid is the All Basotho Convention (ABC), led by a former foreign minister, Tom Thabane, who broke away in 2006 from the then ruling party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). The LCD has also joined the unity talks.
Lesotho has a "mixed member proportional representation" electoral system, similar to those of Germany and New Zealand, under which 80 members of Parliament are chosen by constituents, but the remaining 40 seats are allocated according to the proportion of the national vote each party wins.
Lesotho's Independent Electoral Commission announced Tuesday night that after parties had been allocated their additional proportional representation (PR) seats, the Democratic Congress had 48 seats. The DC is led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who broke away from the LCD earlier this year, taking most of its members of Parliament with him.
The All Basotho Convention won 30 seats in all and the LCD, which did particularly well in the allocation of PR seats, won 26. The Basotho National Party, which ruled the country from independence, then suspended the constitution and remained in power until overthrown in a military coup in 1986, did not win a constituency but was allocated five PR seats.
The Lesotho News Agency (LENA) reported that Tom Thabane told Tuesday's news conference: "We are still looking at winning other parties but we have the numbers which will enable us to form government as three parties, which are ABC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy and Basotho National Party."
The LCD's leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, was not at the news conference, but Public Eye Daily said that Thabane dismissed the significance of this, saying other senior LCD leaders were present. "This means we are singing the same tune," Thabane added. LENA reported that the LCD's Khotso Matla rejected the possibility of a coalition with the Democratic Congress.
The five parties in coalition talks are the ABC, the LCD, the BNP, the Popular Front for Democracy, with three seats, and the Marematlou Freedom Party, with one.